Best. Explanation. Ever.

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Great explanation.

TravisMohrman

First and foremost, I did not come up with this explanation.  Did you think I would?  If so, you haven’t been paying attention.  My explanations tend to ramble on and on until I get caught in a web of Futurama and Simpsons quotes that grow more and more obscure, then everyone leaves.
No, this came from an avid reader in Canada named Ryan Foster.  Great guy.
Basically, we were trying to explain what is so good about self publishing to a traditionally published author and his fans.  Naturally, I went with a grandpa Simpson reference.
Ryan’s example was that the world of books was akin to music venues and acts.

You can go see a big time show in a huge venue with a big name.  Since Ryan is Canadian, I’ll go with Rush.  A Rush show is cool as all get  out!  The ticket will cost you a pretty…

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What if?

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They could be the two best words to a writer.

What if?

I don’t consider myself to be a seasoned pro by any means, but looking back at my writing so far, it has all stemmed from a simple question of “what if?”

  • What if the girl in the casket isn’t really dead?
  • What if the perfect baseball game had a secret behind it?
  • What if the insecticide not only killed the ants, but then made them zombies?

That’s the question, isn’t it? What if…

Just insert an infinite number of scenarios after those two simple words. To be fair, the answer isn’t always the story, either. I’ll come up with the answer to the question, but often times, it changes throughout the journey. The infallible answer I’d stumbled upon after the initial question is suddenly not the solution I was looking for. That’s where the twists and turns come in to play – the action needed to move the narrative along.

The way I see it, there is no end to the stories that can be written as long as we keeping asking, “What if?”

So….what’s your “what if?”

Confronting the Bullies

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Just the word itself – Bully – is enough to cause my heart to skip a beat. For me to get a little short of breath and to force myself not to run to the nearest bathroom stall to shake in fear.

I was bullied as a kid. Through portions of elementary school, junior high, and the early part of high school, I was the subject of many different torments, taunts, and teasing.

Why? I’ve asked that question millions of times throughout my life. At times I was the new kid – I moved from Michigan to Phoenix just before third grade and then again to the suburbs of Chicago after sixth grade. Easy pickings with no friends at the beginning of my tenure in Arizona and Illinois, for sure.

Perhaps it was because of my weight. I take after my father’s Scandinavian line – overweight, but not plagued with health issues. It took me a long time to accept my weight. Even today it is difficult for me to lose weight and I’ve decided it is so I can survive the long winters in Sweden and Norway. But, the size of your shirt makes a difference to bullies when you have to undress in front of each other in a junior high locker room.

I’m sure I could come up with some other reasons, but the end result was the same. The bully would get their words and jabs in and I would just have to suffer.

But why didn’t you stand up for yourself? (Those who have never suffered from bullying might ask.)

Here’s the thing – I did. At least a few times. But, I wasn’t skilled at hiding from teachers and evading their wandering eyes like the bullies were. Once I got tired of the bullying from a classmate in junior high and tripped the kid in the hallway. End result? I got a detention as the bully got away Scott-free. Other times I said something to a teacher, but it just made it worse when the offender was free again.

Lesson learned? Don’t tell. Don’t fight back. Endure the bullying and it will go away.

But….

I was wrong. You have to fight back or the bullies will get their way.

It took me a long time to get to this point. I’m 34 now. High school bullying pretty much ended for me about my junior year when I fully settled into my role as a high school band member. I played the saxophone and the rest of the band welcomed and accepted me. Strength in numbers kept the bullies away. Slowly my self-esteem rebounded and I now believe I am strong psychologically and emotionally. But, the memories of bullies still strike fear into my heart.

Now as a high school teacher, I do see some bullying and when I see it, I do my best to stop it. To be honest, there are moments when I – twice the bully’s age – are fearful they will turn the taunts right back on me. But, those moments are thankfully more fleeting than they used to be thanks to the love and acceptance of family and friends.

Let’s bring this back to writing now. A few days ago, Hugh Howey wrote a blog post about paying for book reviews. Apparently, an anonymous blog “outed” a number of authors who have allegedly paid for reviews and they were going forward with names. Howey was on that list along with a number of other successful indie authors. Hugh decided to stick up for himself, declaring he had never paid for any reviews.

(In a brief sidenote – I’ll make a similar declaration that I have also never paid for reviews on any of my books.)

In his post, Hugh noted of a time when he was in middle school and being bullied.

The most common advice given is silence, to just ignore it, and I have mostly heeded this advice. I have chickened out. It has left me feeling like I did in middle school, where I was regularly bullied. I remember pretending to be sick so I didn’t have to go to school and deal with a kid who once pointed a gun at my brother, pulled the trigger, and laughed when it clicked. A kid who pushed us into thorny bushes (why the hell do they plant those at schools?) and who roughed us up when anyone wasn’t looking. I really did feel sick most mornings. My stomach would twist up in knots, and I lived in constant terror that I’d be targeted on a whim. I was also afraid to stick up for anyone, because I didn’t want to be targeted. We all felt this way.

 I’m right there with you Hugh. Now, the anonymous site is striking back at Hugh, pointing at Hugh’s declaration, made on the memory of his deceased dog, Jolie, as a ruse. “Could anyone be more guilty?” they say.

More bullying tactics. As people are calling for proof and evidence, the bully comes right back with taunts, name calling, sarcasm, and…no proof. In fact, there are no responses on the blog post. I have at least one friend who said he tried to make one but the moderator of the site hasn’t approved it. Shocking.

Bullies don’t want to show both sides. That’s a job for professional journalists. Bullies with blogs are just looking for website traffic and sensationalism. Job achieved. You’ll notice I haven’t linked the blog in question. If you want to find it, you can, but I’ll not give it any more links than it deserves.

I told Hugh this morning, “Success breeds jealousy.” I saw this in school as well. My grades were another aspect that earned me ridicule and I now realize my place and success in life are points that my grade school bullies would likely be jealous of as they contemplate life from a jail cell.

If a bully picks on you, we don’t have to take it. It may seem like junior high all over again, but it isn’t. We have family and friends. What do they have? An anonymous blog with no proof. Desperate for approval. Don’t give it to them. Don’t give in. 

Where to write?

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I’ve seen a couple of blogs and newspaper articles the past few days about when and where to write your best. I don’t know that I have a specific place right now, but there are definitely some places I write better than others. 

J.D. Clarke, a fellow indie writer, posted the other day on his blog that he had a loft where he did his writing. However, the loft separating him from the rest of the house wasn’t enough. He also needed to isolate his thoughts from the noise of the household and purchased some noise-cancelling headphones. With that, he created a great area where he has trained himself to write some every day. 

Carol Kaufmann’s NY Times blog, Draft, had some great thoughts on writing as well. She likes to be outside — away from the wi-fi, away from the noise. She talked to author and psychologist about her writing outside theory and he said this: 

“It’s likely you find it easier to write outside not only because of nature’s direct impact, but because of the absence of so many distractions, most of them technological.” says Mr. Louv, who also finds his writing better when he does it by a lake or in the woods. “The info-blitzkrieg has spawned a new field called ‘interruption science’ and a newly minted condition: continuous partial attention.” Constant electronic intrusions, he says, leave anyone trying to work frustrated, stressed and certainly less creative.

 

I definitely agree. There are SO many distractions. Even on my devices which are meant to help me — I’ve got Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and this blog. There is my KDP page where I can check on my Kindle book sales and then my Author Central page where I check on my ranks on Amazon. Then there are all the blogs of fellow authors I want to follow. With everything out there, it is so overwhelming…and I haven’t even written anything for publication. Nothing for myself. 

(Not to mention Bejeweled Blitz and Candy Crush. Don’t get me started on Candy Crush.)

With all of these distractions, not to mention the beginning of fall TV starting up this week, it is hard to keep yourself focused and away from the noise. My favorite place to write? It’s not even at my house. I’ve found that I LOVE to write at my mother-in-law’s dining room table. It’s a few rooms away from the TV and all the hub-bub that surrounds visits to the in-laws. At my own home, I suppose I’d have to say I work well at my kitchen table, but really only after 9 or 10 p.m. when the wife and daughter are securely in bed. 

I’m still perfecting my best writing spot and still weaning myself off the “noise.” What about you? 

A Conversation with Logan Thomas Snyder

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A couple weeks ago, I was asked by Logan Thomas Snyder if I would be interested in joint interview. Snyder is the author of one of the latest WOOL fan fiction stories, titled The Disappeared: Part 1, a mystery which looks at the seedy underbelly of silo life. Since I released The Veil back in late July, I’ve been welcomed into the WOOL world and have been blessed in my journey. What follows is a back and forth between myself and Logan over the past few days where we talk about each other’s books, favorite authors and the writing process among other topics. It is a great conversation if I say so myself. With that said – enjoy!

WS: Tell me how you came to write a WOOL story:

LTS: For me, I think, it was the challenge. Obviously I love WOOL (the omnibus was the very first thing I downloaded to my Kindle when I got it last year), but it’s not like I finished and started right away on my story. In fact, I wasn’t even aware there were other Silo stories until I saw Hugh gushing about WJ Davies’ The Runner. So I read that, then Jason Gurley’s amazing Greatfall series, and that’s really when the gears started turning. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that before The Disappeared I had zero experience in quote-unquote fan fiction. I just never felt comfortable writing for other authors’ characters in their worlds. Because of the unique nature of the silo system, though, I realized I could take a silo and run with it. So that was appealing, the challenge of taking an established, closed setting and imbuing it with an original story and characters. Throw in Hugh’s blessing to attach our stories to his world, and it feels like what we’re doing is almost semi-canonical. Or maybe ‘canon lite’ is a better way of describing it. Either way, for better or for worse, we’re all connected now, and that’s exciting.

Same question for you, with a follow-up: What, if anything in particular, inspired your story, The Veil?

Well, obviously I can’t answer that without saying Hugh Howey and WOOL. Just like you and so many others, I fell in love with Howey’s futuristic world after I finished the WOOL Omnibus. But, it wasn’t until I looked him up and started following his blog that I really thought, “Hey…maybe I can do this, too…”

I had planned to write a novel forever, but it was Howey — a man just a little older than me — who really inspired me. I wanted to honor that and pay tribute to his world, especially when I saw WJ Davies’ The Runner and other Silo stories in the early part of this year, but I pledged to finish my novel first. Once I did, I worked on The Veil. But, what directly inspired the story of The Veil? It was my sister. She had written for a newspaper in Grand Rapids about her trouble conceiving and with miscarriages. A line just jumped out at me where she talked about her circle of friends leaving her behind and her being an outsider with no kids. If you’ve read The Veil, this is a part of Mary’s life about halfway through and I basically built a world around that small little scenario, except in a silo.

I will also say really quick, that I had never written fan fiction before, either. I had always dismissed it, but Hugh added a sense of legitimacy to it with his endorsement. Now that I’ve done it, I’ll say it is sometimes more difficult that penning your own work. Instead of framing your own world, you have to follow the guidelines set out by someone else. It isn’t easy and I believe it actually helped my writing by forcing me to be more disciplined.

Next question: The Disappeared is your first work, right? How’s the rest of the story coming and when can we expect them? 

That’s incredible, although I think in retrospect I sensed there was something more personal lurking between the lines of that transition in Mary’s life. There was something very intimate about it that I think most people would be hard pressed to imagine cold, without the life experience underpinning it –- which, of course, is where the best stories often come from.

dis_cover_1As for The Disappeared, it’s actually my first published work of fiction. Up until about five years ago, I was a dedicated biographer and all around nonfiction article writer. Then I just hit the wall and decided I wanted to tell my own stories instead of other peoples’. So, like you, I embarked on my first novel. Unlike you, I failed miserably. I hit a point where I just didn’t know what to do with it. So I scrapped it and started on another one. Same result. That was when I realized I needed to think smaller. The result of that was my first novella, This Mortal Coil. I viewed it as more of a personal project, so I didn’t publish it, but just seeing it through gave me the confidence to return to the novel form. It took a little more than a year, but I finished my first full-length novel, The Lazarus Particle, a few days before my thirty-first birthday.

About a week later I emailed Hugh with a very lengthy pitch for The Disappeared, and he quickly emailed back with his blessing. I started on Part I the next day. As for the progress, it’s going great. Part II is the better part of done, and I’m about halfway through Part III. Part II should be available in early October.

Next question: Let’s talk a little bit about characters. What do you think is the worst of the secrets Mary carries with her? Or, if not the worst, maybe the most potentially damaging? Feel free to interpret the question as you see fit. There’s so many, I can certainly think of a few, but I’m curious as to your view on the subject.

I don’t know that I succeeded where you failed. I had many starts and re-starts over the last 10-15 years, but I wasn’t able to have the endurance to finish until I saw Hugh’s story.

As for Mary (SPOILERS AHEAD FOR The Veil), I’d identify two as damaging. Obviously if you’ve read the story, you know that the entire tale is centered around all the secrets Mary keeps from her family and the rest of the silo. The first of which is certainly one I could lead with. When she decides to reject the lottery as a newlywed and then keep that fact from Jacob, it sends her on a downward spiral. Ultimately the argument could be made that each and every one of her mistakes from that point on were a direct result of the initial secret she kept from her husband.

Veil_Part1On the other hand, the worst and longest-lasting secret would be when she indirectly sent her friend Chelsea to clean. By aiding Ari Green by betraying her best friend, she sided with IT over Chelsea, her mother and even her father’s legacy. But even then, it is really the secrets and the heritage of secrets passed down from her mother that led to it all in the first place. If Mary’s mother had told her earlier about her father, perhaps Mary might have made a different decision at the end of The Veil.

Next question: Was there something specific that led to the ideas behind The Disappeared? If we start wading into spoiler territory for the sequels, just say so.

I thought you might mention that first one and I have to agree. I remember reading her denial of the lottery and thinking it was almost a kind of reverse original sin. She’s presented with this unexpected gift, and instead of taking it, she refuses it, only to continue to come back to that moment, and how much different her life might have been if not for that rash decision and everything that follows. It’s a powerful statement, how people fool themselves into thinking secrets will eventually wither and die, when really it tends to be the exact opposite.

As for The Disappeared, sadly I didn’t have to look too far back into recent history for a real-world analogue. For those of us that don’t have a background in history (it would seem we’re pretty well steeped, you being a history teacher and me being a history major and biographer), Latin America experienced an incredible period of turmoil as a proxy battleground of the Cold War. During the late 1980’s, so many political dissidents went missing in Latin American countries that a new slang term was coined by necessity to refer to them: los desaparecidos, loosely translating into “those who were taken/went missing in the night” — also known more simply as the disappeared.

So to answer your question, my specific motivation for The Disappeared was examining crime and punishment in the silos, in particular what other options there are for someone who isn’t sent out to clean. The other side of the coin, so to speak. And from there it just fell into place, the combination of missing girls as part of a deeply disturbing conspiracy that overlaps our own modern-day concerns about government surveillance and overreach.

Next question: Tell me a little about [your first novel] Dead Sleep. I’ve got it on my Kindle and it’s a strong contender for my next read. Without giving too much away, what should I look forward to?

I think it’s great when we can harken back to a historical event or even to modern-day issues in our writing. The Latin American angle is clear when you explain it, but I can also see parallels to modern-day slavery, similar in some ways to the Liam Neeson movie “Taken.”

So…Dead Sleep. It was my first story, even though the short story Perfect Game was published about a month earlier. I started the book back in January of this year after I had been at a funeral for a friend’s mother. While I was in line to see the family, I kept thinking of a character waiting to see someone who had died. Then, the concept came to me — what if she wasn’t really dead?

As all stories do, it took a lot of different shapes early on, but within a month or so, I pretty much knew where I wanted to go with it. The trick was to finish it. Teaching high school at the time, I was able to work on it alot in the evenings, but I had to stop here and there, once for over three weeks. But…I kept on writing and that’s the trick.

Dead Sleep 3 medI’ll tell you something… the blurb on Amazon references that the main character, Jackson, has the ability to see his future. While that sounds supernatural, there is so much science fiction in the story. Kristina, the girl he thinks is dead, has nanomachines running through her body and later they are pursued by a team of androids. While there are a lot of questions answered at the end of the book, I’ve got a lot planned for two sequels to complete a trilogy. In book 2, we’ll find out a lot more about Jackson and his abilities and book 3 will really showcase Kristina’s talents.

Right now, I’ve actually got a new cover in the works and it may be done by the time this interview goes live (it hasn’t — stay tuned). With it, I’ll also have a print edition for the first time.

Next question: Who are some of your favorite authors? Who do you think you write like?

I was wondering when someone was going to mention Taken in connection with The Disappeared. Not that I disagree with the comparison the way you made it. You’re absolutely right, there are definitely points of overlap. It was one of the first things I had to get past mentally. But, I mean, ultimately, Echo is no Liam Neeson. She can’t fight and for the most part she’s completely out of her element. I mean, as much as she doesn’t understand the word ‘quixotic’ by the end of the story, that’s sort of the irony. What could she ever really have done for Shim on her own, the way she set out about it? And yet, be that as it may, no one could have ever talked her out of her search — as we’ve seen — and so we come to Part II, with her… well, you’ll see.

As for favorite authors? Wow. I’m going to say right off the bat, A.C. Crispin, who sadly passed recently but also wrote the absolutely amazing Han Solo origin trilogy that I read waaay back in high school. I haven’t read it since, but I remember that being sort of a touchstone of science fiction for me, in love with Star Wars as I was at the time. More recently, though, William Gibson, Iain M. Banks (again, another recent passing, so sad), Lev Grossman, Erin Morgenstern, Carsten Jensen, so, so many more. Oh, and all my fellow Woolwrights, of course! We strive for excellence in all things. (Sorry, had to do it.)

Boy, that last one is a killer, though. I don’t think I write like anyone. Not to say that my style is especially unique; I’ve just never really thought about it, I guess. I’ve had such a weird, circuitous journey to fiction that I feel like I kind of had to work it out for myself in large part. Trust me, if you saw how bloody red some of my pages run after a good long editing session, you’d see what I mean.

Same questions.

Wow…just goes to show how many influential authors are out there. I’ve read some of Crispin (Star Wars geek myself back in the day) and a little of the others, but most of the writers you cite I haven’t really read. I’ll have to tap into some of them someday.

As for me, I really have to credit my dad. He is a huge science fiction and fantasy fan and had a lot of classics for me to read through the years. Overall, my main influence in childhood was Isaac Asimov. His robot stories and the Foundation novels really informed my writing a lot. He had a way of advancing the story in a very concise way. Not too flowery for the sake of inserting adjectives into the plot. Robert Heinlein as well…Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Ben Bova, and Frank Herbert for sci-fi. Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and J.K. Rowling for fantasy. Writers I like to read today include Hugh Howey, Lee Child, Vince Flynn (RIP), Dean Koontz, Stephen King and Clive Cussler.

I would love to think I write like Asimov. I did a lot of research into him when I was younger and he said he wouldn’t rewrite. He would write what he wrote and he rarely went back to re-do anything in his books. I think in many ways, I’m like that. But, I also have tried to pattern myself after modern-day writers like Dan Brown, Stephen King and Clive Cussler in terms of pacing and action.

Next question: What do you do for a living and when and where do you write the best? How do you find the time to write?

I’ve worked in the incredibly uninspired field of advertising and marketing for a little over three years now. It’s no coincidence that I started really writing in earnest again right around the time I took the job, mostly because it’s so lacking in creative stimulus that I needed some sort of outlet. The best thing about writing, unlike say something like painting or music, is that I can brainstorm and write in my head while I work. Even better, and really the best part about the work, is that I can more or less make my own hours, so if I have a sudden flash of inspiration, I can usually put it aside and get whatever just jumped into my head down on paper. As for where and when, I’ve got a nice little home office that’s pretty much my writer’s nest; I’ve never been one of those people who can peck away in a coffee shop or whatever, I definitely need to have control over my environment and that’s where I tend to find the most inspiration.

Speaking of occupations, one of the things I found most interesting about the world of Wool is how precious little the characters know about the world that came before the silos. As someone who also has a background in history, do you think your background as a history teacher gave you a different perspective or insight into the series as a whole, or possibly even the way you approached your own story?

That’s a fascinating question. Initially, that was one of the things I was really skeptical about in Hugh’s stories. How can a group of people so easily forget their own history? Obviously, he takes care of that with the medication dosed to the people of the silo, but it still has a ring of implausibility to it.

That is, until you look at history itself. The Middle Ages — sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages — was a period just like this. The Roman Empire existed and was the dominant force in the world. They ruled with an iron fist and provoked all their enemies in every direction, eventually suffering at the hands of the Visigoths and Vandals because of it. In WOOL and SHIFT, you can see a similar thing happening. The United States has so much power that it is very much like the Roman Empire in the latter stages. While the Romans had the Germanic tribes to worry about, the U.S. has foreign powers like Islamic extremists and Russians.

DUSTAfter Rome fell, the knowledge they had built up virtually vanished within a generation. All the Greek philosophers — Aristotle and Plato, Archimedes and Pythagoras — all the learning just went away. The world was “controlled” by the church and the bubble it established over the entirety of Europe, but eventually knowledge was re-discovered and Europe emerged stronger than ever. Obviously some stayed behind in the ignorance of the Catholic Church, but for the most part, Europe and the rest of the world were able to break free of the silos — I mean the “darkness” of the age. 😉

Next question: There is a lot of fanfiction out there now for WOOL. How much have you read and what is your favorite? Why?

I definitely see the parallels on the macro level when you put it like that. As a reader, my reaction came more at the micro level. At first I felt a bit of a thrill, realizing I knew considerably more than the characters. That’s an interesting position for me as a reader, because it sets up the internal question of “Well, what happens when the truth comes finally comes out? How will people react, what changes will it elicit?” etc etc. But the further I pushed into the series, the more I realized the gulf of knowledge separating reader and character was not nearly as wide as I initially thought. What more do we really know that they don’t? Granted, we have the benefit of several thousand years of recorded human history to study, but even with that knowledge at our fingertips we’re no more capable of answering the questions that define the human condition to this day: Why are we here? What else is out there? Are we alone? At the end of the day, we’re all basically Lukas, looking up at the stars and wondering what, if anything, lies beyond. That was a powerful realization for me, one that made it a lot easier to relate to the characters and their unique situation.

As for the wealth of Silo stories now available, I have to confess I’m fairly far behind. For a while I was keeping good pace, but it seems like there’s a new one just about every day now! Greatfall continues to be my frontrunner favorite, I think, purely because of how shocking the subject matter was. The Silo Archipelago series was also intriguing to me, primarily because of the parallels with other underground movements throughout human history. As for the rest, my Kindle cup overfloweth with Silo fiction, so those two will definitely have some competition in the weeks to come as I finish up The Disappeared and have more time to kick back and read for a bit before resuming work on The Lazarus Particle.

Aside from your own personal favorite Silo fanfic, one last question: Based purely on your own parameters, which of your works are you most proud of and why? 

Greatfall is amazing. Jason Gurley really knocked that one out of the park. Boy, I’ve read so much of it, it really is difficult to say which is my favorite — they all have different flavors with each author bringing their own perspective on silo-life to the table. Bunker did great with the Archipelago, of course WJ Davies’ Submerged series (The Runner, The Diver and The Watcher) all have a great place, simply because they were really some of the first and Davies managed to end his just after DUST so they were really the first to incorporate facts learned in DUST into the narrative.

There are some great new authors coming up because of WOOL as well — Carol Davis, Brigid D’Souza, Ann Christy and Fred Shernoff to name a few. I’ll read just about anything they have to write, simply because of what I’ve already read from the WOOL universe.

As for my own books — that’s like asking which of my children I love the most!

Nah…not really. Right now, I have four published works (I just published Ant Apocalypse yesterday) with two short stories, a Silo novella and my novel. I think my best writing so far was in the Silo Saga novella, The Veil. I really worked hard at keeping the details clear and concise and fitting that into Hugh Howey’s universe.

However, which one am I most proud of? My novel, Dead Sleep. My writing (and finishing!) it, I proved to myself I could do it. Before I became a teacher, I’d worked for a newspaper and I could write 500-2,000 word articles all day long. But…a novel? I didn’t think I could. Once I learned about Hugh and his process…then found out that he endorsed “shorter” novels with as few as 60,000 words, I really decided to go for it. It wasn’t easy, but I persevered throughout a six-month time period to finish it. The book will always have a special place in my heart, in spite of some flaws in retrospect.

fin.

WOOL, SHIFT, & DUST as Historical Allegory

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So…earlier today, I was talking back and forth with new WOOLwriter, Logan Thomas Snyder. We’re doing a back-and-forth interview that I’ll post probably later this week. Some really great stuff from an up-and-coming author. While we were tossing questions back and forth at one another, he threw this at me: “As someone who also has a background in history, do you think your background as a history teacher gave you a different perspective or insight into the (WOOL) series as a whole, or possibly even the way you approached your own history?”

As soon as I read it, I had an epiphany. I had thought about the historical context in some ways and hadn’t really even realized it until I gave it deeper thought today. Here was my answer about Hugh Howey’s books: 

(Warning — THEMATIC SPOILERS for WOOL, SHIFT, and DUST Ahead)

ImageInitially, that was one of the things I was really skeptical about in Hugh’s stories. How can a group of people so easily forget their own history? Obviously, he takes care of that with the medication dosed to the people of the silo, but it still has a ring of implausibility to it. 

That is, until you look at history itself. The Middle Ages — sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages — was a period just like this. The Roman Empire existed and was the dominant force in the world. They ruled with an iron fist and provoked all their enemies in every direction, eventually suffering at the hands of the Visigoths and Vandals because of it. In WOOL and SHIFT, you can see a similar thing happening. The United States has so much power that it is very much like the Roman Empire in the latter stages. While the Romans had the Germanic tribes to worry about, the U.S. has foreign powers like Islamic extremists and Russians. 

After Rome fell, the knowledge they had built up virtually vanished within a generation. All the Greek philosophers — Aristotle and Plato, Archimedes and Pythagoras — all the learning just went away. The world was “controlled” by the church and the bubble it established over the entirety of Europe, but eventually knowledge was re-discovered and Europe emerged stronger than ever. Obviously some stayed behind in the ignorance of the Catholic Church, but for the most part, Europe and the rest of the world were able to break free of the silos — I mean the “darkness” of the age. 😉

To build on that, I’ll toss this out there — that the WOOL books were in some ways a re-telling of the transition from the fall of Rome (SHIFT) to the Dark Ages where Europe is run by the church under the leadership of one man, the pope (WOOL) to the Renaissance, Reformation and the Enlightenment, when people across Europe began to realize the oppression they were under from Monarchical regimes and the rule of the Catholic Church (DUST). 

What do you think?

Ant-tastic!!

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First off, can we just admire the amazing cover for a moment?

I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything — the very talented Jason Gurley designed it for me. In fact, when I asked him, it was mid-July and I hadn’t even started writing it yet. I believe the best description I gave him was I wanted a 70’s B-movie vibe. No plot or anything. 

Bam. Mission accomplished. 

Today I released the short story to some favorable response. So, what’s the deal and how did it come about? 

We’ll have to go back to mid-July. I think it was a Saturday morning or something — pretty early if I remember correctly, when I checked my phone and saw a tweet from Lyndon Perry, a fellow WOOL writer. Perry had tweeted this: “A TV advertisement for Raid, an insecticide spray, claims that it ‘kills ants for two weeks.’ Wonders what happens on the fifteenth day…”

My response?

“ANTAPOCALYPSE”

Perry replied with a quip that I should write that story, something I doubt he expected. I quipped right back initially, but it really got me thinking. Since my wife and I moved into our home in 2002, we have had trouble with ants. Small, black, six-legged terrorists. I knew I could tell this story. 

A lot of it is biographical, except for the part where the ants turn into zombies, of course. 

It’s a short story, clocking in at just under 16,000 words, good for about an hour of reading, depending on how fast you read. I wanted to go for that B-movie feel with terror from the crawling menace along with a healthy dose of humor alongside. After hearing back from the beta readers, I think I achieved what I was going for. 

I really haven’t shilled my products here, but I also wanted to explain the story a bit better than I could on Facebook or Twitter. I hope you’ll try it and if you like it, certainly write up a review on Amazon for me. 

If you don’t — at least you’ll have a wonderful piece of art, courtesy of Jason Gurley. Wow. What a cover.